The Gospel is for Everyone

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When we left off last week, Saul, the persecutor of the church, met Jesus on the road to Damascus. He was struck blind and instructed to go to the city and wait for a man named Ananias who would come and restore his eyesight. The Lord tells Ananias to go and face Saul to restore his eyesight, which would have been a very scary proposition. Ananias obeys, goes to Saul, his eyesight is restored, and Saul immediately begins preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Well, the Jews did not like that and they sought to kill him. So Saul’s supporters devised a plan to help him escape the city by lowering him in a basket through an opening in the city’s exterior wall. He escapes to Jerusalem, where the apostles are hesitant to trust him, but Barnabas steps in to have Saul’s back. Saul goes toe to toe with the Jews in Jerusalem only for them to try and kill him. So Saul is sent to Caesarea, and from there, his home town Tarsus.
Meanwhile, the story shifts back to Peter in chapter 10. He travels to a town called Lydda, where he heals a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. While he was there, the people of Joppa, a town on the coast not far away, send messengers to Peter regarding a woman named Tabitha (or Dorcas, which means Gazelle) who had fallen sick and died. Peter goes to Joppa, revives this woman, and many in Joppa come to faith because of this miracle.
While he is there, A centurion named Cornelius receives a vision from the Lord to send for Peter and bring him there. So Cornelius sends his men to retrieve Peter. While all this is going on, Peter also receives a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven with a bunch of unclean animals (those prohibited to eat according to Jewish dietary laws) and tells him to kill and eat. Peter says, “Lord, I can’t eat anything unholy or unclean.” And God says, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” At that time, the men from Cornelius’ house arrive explaining the vision Cornelius received and Peter agrees to go with them to Caesarea.
When he arrives, Cornelius explains the vision he had, and Peter responds in verse 34, where we will begin reading.
Acts 10:34–48 NASB95
Opening his mouth, Peter said: I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. “The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)— you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. “We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. “God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. “And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.
The key to understanding what is happening in chapter 10 is to understand a bit about Jewish culture. You see, the Jews made a very grave mistake. God set them apart to be a light to the other nations. By remaining faithful to their covenant with God and obeying the Lord’s commands, they were to be set up as an example to everyone around them. What ended up happening was the Jewish people got a mindset that they were special because they were chosen by God. They got it in their minds that they were better than everyone else and it was them versus everyone else. So that mindset permeated the culture.
So when Christ comes and calls his first disciples, they are operating with this mindset, thinking that their Jewish Messiah has come for them. That is true, but that is not all he came for. Jesus himself showed that salvation was intended to be offered to all people, not just Israel. He had a number of interactions where he ministered to Gentiles, showing His intent to bring them into the family of God. The book of Isaiah predicts the bringing in of Gentiles into the family of God, yet this was often ignored by the Jewish people.
Imagine learning something your entire life, and not just you, but it is a cultural norm, only to be challenged that maybe this cultural standard you have is not correct. Maybe the thing you thought was true is not. The older you get, the more difficult it can be to change perspective. The more ingrained this perspective might be in the culture, the harder it can be to change. Peter grew up in a society that thought they were above everyone else because God chose them. What they missed was that they were chosen for the sake of everyone else. They were so consumed by thinking it is us or them that they didn’t see that it was really us for them. This is why he gets the vision of the sheet and God says don’t call what God has cleansed unholy or unclean. God was showing Peter His intent to bring even Gentiles to faith in Christ.
Peter acknowledges this much in verse 28,
Acts 10:28 NASB95
And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.
This is why he begins his response to Cornelius with, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.”

Because God does not play favorites, He offers salvation to everyone.

Think about what this means for a second. God does not show partiality to any group of people. Peter was learning that the special status he thought he had as a member of the Jewish community. He was learning that Jesus did not come just for the redemption of Israel, but for all people. If we are not careful, we can fall into the same trap of believing that we are special or better than because God chose us. What ought to keep us humbled and grateful that we can call Jesus a friend and through Him we approach the throne of God is that He did not choose us because of who we are. He chose us because of His own lovingkindness, His mercy, and His grace.
As we continue through the passage, we see that Peter then shared the gospel with everyone in the room. Notice the core elements of his gospel presentation:
Peter’s Gospel Presentation:
Life and Ministry of Jesus (v. 38)
Death of Jesus (v. 39)
Resurrection of Jesus (v. 40-41)
Commissioning of Jesus (v.42)
Offer of forgiveness.
The people Peter spoke to were already familiar with some of the events taking place in Galilee and Judea. What they were missing was the full story. Peter gave them a short version of the gospel, but that was all that was needed. Verse 44 says that the Holy Spirit fell on all who were listening to the message and the circumcised believers were amazed because the Gentiles were receiving the Holy Spirit.
Ladies and gentlemen, the moment we say that a person or a group of people cannot be saved, we have made a grave error. For if the gospel is not for them, then it was not for you. If the gospel did not come for the Gentile, then we could not be having this service today. We must be very careful and resist believing that we have joined an elite club or organization or that somehow God chose us because there was something good in us that somehow made us worthy of the choice. The Bible is very clear that is not the case.
The church can share in the same attitude of “It’s us or them,” but God called you and I so that it would be us for them. The church is the only organization on the planet that exists for those who are not part of it yet. This is the motivation to fulfill the Great Commission. We are to shine our light before men so that others will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. We live as examples of what it is supposed to look like to walk in a covenant relationship with God. That is why faithfulness is so important. God calls people to Himself when there is an example of what a healthy relationship with God looks like.
But we must not rely solely on our lifestyle of good works to bring people to the truth. We are called to share as Peter is sharing here in Acts chapter 10. We must be ready for divine appointments like we talked about a couple weeks ago but we also must plan time to share Jesus with others. Forgiveness of sin is available through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, who rose from the dead three days later conquering sin and death, who now sits at the right hand of the Father interceding and mediating for us so that we might come into the very presence of God.
Do you need the forgiveness of God this morning? Realize first that you have sinned against Him. Be honest with Him. Confess your sin to Him. Agree with God to turn from your sin and He will save you. If you are a follower of Christ, how can you better emulate Christlikeness through both word and deed? Are you faithful to the covenant God called you to? What might you need to address with him this morning? The gospel is for everyone. And everyone can approach the throne of grace this morning through our mediator Jesus. For some maybe for the first time. Ask the Lord to reveal in you what He would have you do.
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